While feedback from management is valuable and necessary for growth it’s not always immediate. This type of feedback tends to focus on the bigger picture; performance trends, project outcomes, etc. Day to day tasks are often overlooked.
Peer to peer feedback is a great way to help team performance, individual growth and get that insight immediately in the context of day to day tasks. It also helps teams address tough issues and move past them in a solutions focused way.
But there’s a catch: Feedback is only as good as its intent and execution.
Consider this situation that Susan, manager of a small accounting team, shared:
During their weekly meeting Susan and her team agreed that peer to peer feedback would be beneficial and decided to add ongoing peer to peer feedback as a performance tool. Susan was impressed at the team’s excitement.
“We can help each other grow!” They said
“It will be like an ongoing 360!” They said
The team assured Susan they felt comfortable enough with one other to have these types of conversations. Each team member committed a respectful, caring approach to the process.
So imagine Susan’s surprise when two weeks later, Marie, a long time team member, entered her office in tears. Marie had just received “feedback” from her colleague Dan and it did not go well.
What Susan and her team experienced is not uncommon. Feedback is one of the hardest things do. Among peers it can add a complicated layer in a workplace relationship. When done right though-it can be a powerful tool in professional development and team performance.
Here’s what you can do to set your team up for meaningful, effective peer to peer discussions
Feedback that is too subjective, unclear or not actionable is useless. Worse, it can do more damage than good. Tools like the Situation-Behavior-Impact model are incredibly helpful in these conversations. The situation is the where and when. The behavior is the specific, observable behaviors that you want to address. The impact describes how the behaviors affected you:
During the team meeting yesterday, when you gave your presentation, you were uncertain about two of the slides and your sales calculations were incorrect. I felt embarrassed because the entire board was there. I’m worried that this has affected the reputation of our team.
“At the client meeting on Monday you ensured that the meeting started on time and that everyone had handouts in advance. All of your data was researched, accurate and well represented. I’m proud that you did such an excellent job and put the team and organization in a good light. I feel confident that we’ll get the account, thanks to your hard work.”
How it’s Done
Most of us aren’t inherently good at giving or receiving feedback. So set your team up for success through training, coaching, and practice. Role plays can seem awkward, but they provide a safe space to apply the concepts.
As a manager, you must practice what you teach. If you expect team members to engage in the feedback process, you must engage as well. That means you are receptive to feedback from the members of your team and apply the same tools.
Is it the Right Time?
In order for peer to peer feedback to be effective, every single team member must commit to the process and place team goals ahead of individual egos. On teams where there are underlying issues or conflicts between members, peer to peer feedback isn’t used, or it’s executed poorly.
In the case of Dan and Marie, there were some lingering hard feelings over an unsuccessful project they’d worked on months prior. Dan and Marie used feedback as an excuse to rehash old arguments.
Trust and commitment issues on the team must be addressed before you invite members to give and take feedback to one another.
Remember the Good Stuff!
The reason we hide under our desks when we hear the “F” word is because feedback has become almost synonymous with “poor performance” or “problem.” Encourage team members to share the positive observations as well. This will make feedback seem like less of a four letter word and reinforce great performance.
For more feedback strategies and team dynamics, give us a call at 888-529-0240 or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org